This Will Have Been: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s at the MCA
This exhibition covers the period from 1979-1992 when Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher dominated the political world, punk and hip-hop ruled the airwaves, and technological advancements such as the Sony walkman, personal computers, and MTV came onto the scene. Looking through the lens of visual arts, the works on view demonstrate America’s focus on desire——desire of objects, fame and a certain lifestyle that dominated the psyche of the public during that time.
The feminist movement that took place in the 1970s created a demand for equality and social justice but it was difficult for visual art to compete with America’s obsession with Hollywood and advertising. How were marginalized people able to find a voice? During a time when there was an increase in HIV and AIDS and some discontent, there was a wide range of art being made by a diverse group of artists. The works on view demonstrate, “the decades’ moments of contentious debate, raucous dialogue, erudite opinions and joyful expression-all in the name of an expanded idea of freedom, long the promise of democratic societies.”
Gretchen Benda investigates mass media’s effect on public consciousness. A grid of monitors transmits live tv feeds. The artist has placed text on the bottom of the screens altering the tv from a pleasurable activity to a strictly political one.
John Ahearn’s sculpture, Raymond and Toby from 1989 speaks to the marginalized members of the artist’s neighborhood, the South Bronx. Depicting a local boxer with a pit bull, the controversial work was removed a week after it was installed due to the fact that the artist, a white man, was memorializing a black man.
Tseng Kwang’s photographs of Keith Haring tagging subways are fun.
David Hammons How Ya Like Me Now from 1988 alters Jesse Jackson’s image highlighting the disconnect that occurred between the Civil Rights generation and the Hip-Hop generation of the 1980s.
My favorite artist, Doris Salcedo, has a work made of 21 cloth shirts that speaks to the experience of Columbian women who saw their husbands murdered due to their involvement in labor struggles. The work jumps out against the white wall behind it as it stands monumentally in the center of the gallery.
There are works by Carrie Mare Weems, Jeff Wall, Barbara Kruger, and Donald Moffett before his oeuvre shifted to the paintings we are familiar with today.
I loved seeing the inkjet adhesive vinyl Kissing Doesn’t Kill: Greed and Indifference Do by Gran Fury from 1989 speaking to the AIDS epidemic that was becoming the central focus of the gay community at this time.
Some artists were focused on “debunking images of the masculine as heroic and suffused with authority.” Rosemarie Trockel wove corporate logos for Woolrich and Playboy into a piece emphasizing the power that logos have even when removed from their products and context. The Guerrilla Girls have a work on view in this gallery, and Albert Oehlen’s painting from 1984 shows that his own artistic identity was in crisis, partly a comment on the insanity of the art market at the time.
Eric Fischl, Julian Schnabel, Carroll Dunham and Robert Gober also have works on view. Tony Cragg’s work from the 1980s, work that I actually prefer to his recent sculptures, uses debris that reflects our industrial consumption and waste. Mike Kelley and Paul McCarthy’s video as well as Kelley’s stuffed fabric toys and wax candles on a wood base are also in this gallery.
The next gallery highlights artists reaction to common media images filled with desire. Richard Prince’s enlarged photos of advertisements place mass media in a new context. Haim Steinbach makes us reconsider our relationships to everyday objects by placing them to look almost like a minimalist sculpture but in a commercial display but in a fine art gallery. One finds work by Sophie Calle, Laurie Simmons, and Nan Goldin. Koons, Mapplethorpe and Gonzalez-Torres, Kippenberger, Sherman and Isaac Julien. Also on view are works by the Starn Brothers, Christopher Wool, Pettibon, Christian Marclay and Allan McCollum, James Welling and both an abstract and photorealistic skull by Gerhard Richter, the artist of the moment whose works go for tens of millions of dollars.
Tony Tasset’s button progression combines the grid of minimalism with design and domesticity.
Martin Puryear’s pine plank with white gesso which showcases his immense skill as a carpenter while creating something reminiscent of a grave stone.
A well-curated show which highlights works that have been overlooked by the majority of the art world over the years.